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Aman Raina’s Robo portfolio — 2 years later

Aman Raina

By Aman Raina, Sage Investors

Two years ago I decided to set up an account with an online wealth management company that manages portfolios using algorithms and computer code. At the time, these Robo Advisers were just getting out there but there was a fair bit of buzz on how they could threaten traditional wealth management services.
I was intrigued by the model, but there was one thing that many marketing materials, blogs, and mainstream media was avoiding … do these things make money for investors?

 

I was having a hard finding an answer to this so I decided to try to find out myself.  I set up an account with one of the big Robo Adviser firms. My goal was to go through the process and blog about my experience and more importantly, the results. We’ve now crossed the two-year anniversary of my ROBO account, so let’s take a look at how it’s doing now.

When we last checked in with our ROBO portfolio in January it was taking some hits along with the overall stock market. Since then the market has recovered quite nicely. Let’s take a look under the hood to see if the Robo Portfolio has bounced back.

Performance Continue Reading…

Why aren’t robo-advisors being used by those who need them most?

By Edward Kholodenko,  Questrade

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Uber has quickly become the largest personal transportation company in the world, yet it  doesn’t own a single vehicle. That’s because there’s more to Uber than just hailing a ride from your phone. It’s providing more convenience at a lower price and in turn, transforming the transportation industry.

Substitute Uber for Amazon, Airbnb, or any other tech disruptor and a common theme emerges. On the road to becoming mainstream, applications that reduce cost and improve convenience are often first adopted by millennials and the tech-savvy. While the early adopters reap the many benefits of these innovations, those who hesitate are missing out.

Retirement challenge and the Robo-Revolution

When it comes to financial technology, there are certain populations that can no longer afford to be late adopters. Thanks to the innovation in the investment space, preparing for retirement has become easier than ever. Enter robo-advisors: an online wealth management service that provides diversified investing, much like a mutual fund, but at a much lower cost.

Given the current state of retirement savings in Canada, it’s apparent that this technology has great value to those willing to take the leap.

There is concern that 80 per cent of middle-income Canadians nearing retirement won’t have enough to support themselves. The average Canadian’s retirement savings of $71,000 will last only a few years, and, 50 per cent of Canadians are not confident they will have enough to retire comfortably.

Not only are Canadians saving far too little for their retirement, but also many can no longer depend on company pension plans to provide the income needed to stop working.  Our golden years are increasingly self-funded and investment decisions now fall on the shoulders of the individual. There’s a fantastic opportunity for new solutions in this space, and those willing to embrace a solution provided by fintech providers are reaping the reward.

Robo-advisors, in spite of the name, aren’t actually robots. Professional (human) portfolio managers handle all of the investments. In fact, there are two types of managed robo-advisor accounts: actively- and passively-managed:

Actively-managed advisors have a dedicated team of portfolio managers who select investments and adjust the portfolio to take advantage of market opportunities, all of this at a low cost. Passively-managed advisors typically invest according to set investment rules that only track the market.

These advisors use leading technology and proven strategies to provide a better investment experience at a lower cost to the consumer. And, by reinvesting the money you save in fees, individuals are able to increase their retirement savings and returns.

Robo-advisors are helping Canadians retire wealthier

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Retired Money: Still a place for Spousal RRSPs

My latest MoneySense Retired Money blog has just been published, which you can find by clicking on this highlighted link: Tax Strategies using spousal RRSPs.

This is the second in a series: the first one focused on pension splitting and can be found here: Pension splitting is now ten years old. The Financial Post also ran a related piece called Spousal RRSPs are an often overlooked retirement savings tool.

As these pieces note, income splitting usually works best for families when two spouses are in different tax brackets. Particularly if one spouse is a big earner and the second isn’t making peony at all.

As CIBC Wealth’s Jamie Golombek observed in this piece in the FP — Tax Season is Upon Us — the Family Tax Cut is no more as of 2016: that was a version of income splitting that let families with children under 18 transfer up to $50,000 of income to his or her lower-income spouse or partner. But “seniors need not worry,” Golombek added: seniors can still split eligible pension income with spouses or common-law partners.

And spousal RRSPs still present non-seniors with another valid income-splitting alternative, again assuming that a couple occupy disparate tax brackets.  As the MoneySense piece phrases it, all those years the high-earning spouse is saving for retirement, the ideal solution would be to get a tax deduction for RRSP contributions but when it comes time to receive the income, to receive it in the hands of the lower-income spouse.

And that’s exactly what a spousal RRSP does. The contributor can deduct the amount of the spousal RRSP deposit from his/her (higher) earned income, while the recipient (the husband in our example) owns the investments. The aim is to equalize retirement income of both spouses, and to have the RRSP funds withdrawn by the recipient spouse at his or her lower tax rate.

Unlike pension splitting, you’re not restricted to splitting just 50% of the income: you can have 100% of it taxed in the lower-earning spouse if so desired. This income splitting also helps the couple each qualify for the $2,000 pension credit.

There are plenty of nuances to this, such as splitting CPP or QPP income after age 60. But as Chris Cottier, an investment advisor with Richardson GMP Limited, says, the spousal RRSP is generally a “no-lose” proposition.

A Procrastinator’s Guide to RRSPs

Procrastinators: There is just a week to go until the March 1st deadline for making contributions to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). My column in the Financial Post in today’s paper (page FP10) can also be found online by clicking on the following highlighted text of the headline, As the RRSP deadline looms, here’s what all the procrastinators need to know.

One of the sources cited is CPA David Trahair, author of the book illustrated to the left: The Procrastinator’s Guide to Retirement. Here’s a link to the Hub’s review of that book.

The FP piece notes that while making an RRSP contribution before the deadline is not technically a “use it or lose it” proposition, procrastination nevertheless provides opportunity losses: you end up paying more income tax than necessary for the 2016 tax year (reminder, THAT deadline is also looming: see Jamie Golombek’s reminder in his FP column: Tax season is upon us.) Procrastination also creates the opportunity loss of considerable tax-compounded investment growth.

While you can arrange an RRSP top-up loan or — for multiple years of under contributions — an RRSP “catch-up” loan, my conclusion is that the optimum course of action is to automate RRSP savings through a pre-authorized checking (PAC) arrangement with a financial institution. This approach also allows you to “dollar cost average” your way into financial markets: that way, you reduce the stress of coming up with a large lump sum to contribute, as well as the stress of fretting about the best time to invest.

Of course, as Trahair notes at the end of the article, and as Borrowell’s Eva Wong reminded us in her Hub blog on Monday, if you’re heavily in debt you may be better off eliminating that debt before getting too serious about RRSP contributions: See When you should NOT invest in an RRSP.

Burn Your Mortgage: The simple, powerful path to Financial Freedom

By Sean Cooper

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Five years ago I read Jonathan Chevreau’s financial novel, Findependence Day, and it changed my life forever.

One of the central themes of the book is that the foundation of Financial Independence is a paid-for home. I wasn’t a fan of six figures of mortgage debt hanging over my head for the next 30 years, so I aimed to pay off my mortgage as quickly as possible.

A little over a year ago I reached my goal of “Findependence” when I burned my mortgage – literally. I paid off my home in Toronto in just three years by age 30. Thanks to a stroke of luck and good timing, the story went viral, making headlines around the world from the U.K. to Australia. I received hundreds of email from people congratulating me and wanting to follow in my footsteps.

This inspired to me write my new book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for CanadiansWith home prices skyrocketing in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, many feel like  the dream of homeownership is out of reach. I’m here to tell you that it’s not. I may have paid off my mortgage in three years, but that doesn’t mean you have to. There are simple yet effective lifestyle changes that anyone — from new buyers to experienced homeowners — can make to pay down their mortgage sooner.

Some people argue it doesn’t make sense to pay down your mortgage early with interest rates near record lows. I see it differently. Instead of using low interest rates as an excuse to pile on more debt, use them as an opportunity to pay down the single biggest debt of your lifetime: your mortgage.

Here’s an excerpt from my book that looks at why you’re most likely better off paying down your mortgage instead of investing. [Editor’s Note: the official launch of the book is today.]

Why pay down your Mortgage when you can come out ahead Investing?

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